Regretting Motherhood: A Sociopolitical Analysis

Based on in-depth interviews with twenty-three Israeli mothers, this article seeks to contribute to an ongoing inquiry into women’s subjective experiences of mothering by addressing an understudied maternal emotive and cognitive stance: regretting motherhood. The literature teaches us that within a pronatal monopoly, threatening women that they will inevitably regret not having children acts as powerful reproducer of the ideology of motherhood. Simultaneously, motherhood is constructed as a mythical nexus that lies outside and beyond the human terrain of regret, and therefore a desire to undo the maternal experience is conceived as an object of disbelief. By incorporating regret into maternal experiences, the purpose of the article is twofold: The first is to distinguish regret over motherhood from other conflictual and ambivalent maternal emotions. Whereas participants’ expressions of regretting motherhood were not bereft of ambivalence, and thus were not necessarily exceptional or anomalous, they foreground a different emotive and cognitive stance toward motherhood. The second purpose is to situate regret over motherhood in the sociopolitical arena. It has been suggested that the “power of backward thinking” might be used to reflect on the systems of power governing maternal feelings in two ways: first, through a categorical distinction in the target of regret between object (the children) and experience (maternity), which utilizes the cultural structure of mother love; second, by opposing the very essentialist presumption of a fixed female identity that naturally befits mothering or progressively adapts to it and evaluates it as a worthwhile experience.

Donath, O. (2015). Regretting motherhood: A Sociopolitical analysis. Signs,40(2), 343-367.


Difficult interview participants and possible solutions

1. Participants are willing just to give monosyllabic answer, “yes”, “no”, “maybe”. Formulate questions as open as possible or use long pauses in silence to let them know you want hear more.

2. Participant become upset or start to cry. Explain that the question does not have to be answered. Avoid finalize the interview in this precise moment and just move on a different topic. It could make him/her feel guilty and cause greater damage.

3. They provide long answer and digress from the guide. Impose your direction discretly, without cause offence. For example, refering back to an earlier relevant point.

4. Participants starts interviewing you. You need to stress that you are interested in their opinion and that yours maybe provided at the end.


Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

9-step checklist to conduct an in-depth interview

1. Encourage participants to provide further details when talking on crucial topics and bringing them to the interview guide when digressing.

2. Measure carefully when and in which sequence you ask certain questions. It mainly applies to the centered question. What is a centered question? Among all possible questions, a number of them are usually crucial for the research. You could actually ask these questions right away and make interviews shorter. However, it would be at the expense of reliability. In other terms, going to the point at the beginning of the discussion may inform about the sponsorship and, in consequence, affect the spontaneity and data credibility. This is actually the most common mistake.

3. For this reason it is recommendable moving from opening and more general questions like “could you please tell me about your favorite brand” up to the centered one: “what´s your opinion about brand “A”.

4. Furthermore, you can also ask comparative questions, i.e. about more brands, not only yours. Thus, you avoid the problem spontaneity and also obtain key information in comparison with competitors: “Now I would like to know your opinion on a number of brands…” 

5. After having follow all those steps it is commonly useful asking specific questions about your brand toward the end of the interview “what comes spontaneously to your mind when you see this logo?”

6. Whenever participants appears willing only to give monosyllabic answer, these being little more than “yes” or “no” try to formulate depth-provoking questions like “what do you mean by?” or, something that usually works, use long pauses to signify that you want to hear more. In other words, the silence is also a way of enquiring.

7. The most relevant information normally comes after confrontational questions. Whenever there is some contradiction on responses, a good interviewer should confront respondent. You can also use statistic or whatever material that contradict the responses and confront the participant with another point of view.

8. Toward the end of the interview it is common to formulate both confirmatory like “are you saying that…?” and summarizing questions like “Summarizing your opinion, you would be willing to buy this product if…”. Both provide final results with more consistent and also let interviewer give further explanation in case of misunderstanding.

9. Apart from the questions included on the guide in advance, you might, as long as you consider convenient and fruitful, include ad hoc question.


Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.

What is a market research interview?

What does first spontaneously come to your mind when listen the word “interview”? May be a conversation between a journalist and a relevant personage on television? May be a job interview? Although an interview for market research may have many things in common with a job interview, there are a number of particularities to bear in mind. A market reserch interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Kahn and Cannel, 1957) Bellow you can see what are the essentials of an interview.

1. Open-ended questions. Unlike in a questionnaire, the interviewee is not forced to choose among a set of options like bellow:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

On the contrary, the interviewee has absolute freedom to answer and does not need to stick to any preset categories. Actually, this is the essence and advantage of such technique, i.e. the possibility to obtain a spontaneous and non-conditioned answer. Some of examples are:

  • “Tell me about your relationship with your supervisor”
  • “How do you see your future?”
  • “What is the purpose of government?”
  • “Why did you choose that answer?”

3. Representation. When doing a research on trainers shoes consumptions, you must interview young people, adults and elder, or whatever other relevant categorization. It is going to assure a correct representation of the phenomena. Take into account that representation does not imply representativeness. When applying interviews in your research, the sample is usually low, 15 or 20 cases is enough. But these figures are insufficient to do inferences. On the contrary, other techniques like survey are precisely designed for reliable inferences.

4. Interaction. As well as other qualitative techniques as focus group, interaction is both the main advantage and handicap. On the one hand, the direct and close interaction interviewer-interviewee allows a deeper understanding. However, the way interviewer behaves may affect the answers. How do should behave? This question will be answer in future posts, but here is enough to say that a good interviewer must be neutral and refrain from giving his or her personal opinion.


Kahn, R. L., & Cannell, C. F. (1957). The dynamics of interviewing: theorie, technique, and cases. Cited in Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
VALLES, M. (2002). Entrevistas Cualitativas, CIS, Cuadernos Metodológicos nº 32S, Madrid. Trabajo personal de lectura y comprensión Trabajo personal para obtener informaciones de diversas fuentes Trabajo personal de análisis y síntesis.

The meaning of qualitative methods

Throwing an eye over the definition provided by oxford dictionary will make easier to understand the meaning of the term qualitative method. The word “method” refers to “a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one”. On the other hand, if we claim the same source for the word qualitative it means “relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity”.

In other words, a qualitative method is a particular procedure for approaching something systematically in order to measure it by the quality rather than the quantity. The mere definition of the term is usually made in opposition to “quantitative method” which essentially refers to a procedure to describe something regarding the size. But above all, a qualitative method is about text. The “closed-ended question” usually set in survey questionnaires are replace for “open-ended question” that ask the respondent to suply text responses.

It is important to add that the qualitative methods are originally rooted into social science, it is, psychology, economy, sociology, anthropology but also management science. Although social science´s approach was in its origin more akin to the quantitative method, several scientists noticed, since the end of the XIX century, the limitation of the quantitative approach to the study of human and social behavior. The central argument has been that the application of a survey and experiment research squemata does not take sufficiently into account the differences between human beings and the object from the natural sciences.280px-Bronisław_Malinowski_among_Trobriand_tribe_3

On the contrary, qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews or observation were considered more appropriate to understand the human behavior. Curiously, it was a polish anthropologist, Bronisław Malinowski, who first applied, at the beginning of XX century, what is considered the oldest qualitative method: “participant observation“. By mean this method, he conducted several fieldworks in order to analyze patterns of exchange in aboriginal communities, mainly in Africa and Australia. He remains the hallmark of ethnographic research today.

Perhaps, quantitative approach is still dominant, but the truth is that the qualitative one has also experienced a great development up to date, giving room for many theoretical and empirical positions. Apart from participant observation, other methods as focus group, in-depth interviews and ethnography are an essential part of today´s social science and, specially, regarding market research industry.


Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.

Mella, O. (1998). Naturaleza y orientaciones teórico-metodológicas de la investigación cualitativa. Santiago: CIDE, 51.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Oxford dictionaries